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Posted October 1, 2014
This collection of fairy tales consists of many from collections familiar to readers like Grimm, Arabian Knights, Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault. Some are less familiar such as The Light Princess from George MacDonald.
There are no illustrations in the collection. Certainly some of these tales will inspire the reader to visualize many terrifying characters that might defy illustrations. In any case, I would not recommend them to young children because there is a great deal of violence and some morbidity. The language of these tales is not always twenty-first century and many prejudicial attitudes are displayed within. There is no formal table of contents: the reader must go to the chapter headings to find the name of the tale. Readers will be familiar with many of these, The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Tom Thumb, and Hansel and Gretel. Allow me to preview two of those less well-known.
In One Eye Two Eyes, Three Eyes we meet a woman who has three daughters. The daughter who had two eyes was shunned because she looked too much like ordinary people. She was treated much like Cinderella by her mother and sisters. But one day she meets a woman who gives her a magical phrase to say to her goat every time she is hungry, “Little goat, if you’re able, Pray deck out my table.” So from that day on, Two Eyes never went hungry and her family became very jealous. When they find out her secret, they kill the goat. Two Eyes retrieves the goat’s insides and buries it in front of the house. It produces a tree with leaves of silver and apples of gold that only Two Eyes is able to retrieve. Will there be a happily ever after ending?
The Light Princess tells of a king and queen who are childless for a long time. When a long-awaited daughter is born, the king forgets to invite his sister, Princess Makemnoit, who happens to be a spiteful witch. She appears at the palace without invitation and puts a “light” spell on the princess. This spell deprives the child of all her gravity. The baby floats up and down and has to closely watched. As the child grows, the child develops a love of water and swims in the lake for hours on end. The princess has no sense of balance. The King’s Council of Metaphysians urge her to become knowledgeable of all earthly sciences like history and geology. One day a prince comes along who is determined to woo her. Will he be victorious or will the Aunt’s spell continue to plague her?
The tales are entertaining, if sometimes dark and unsettling. Reading them provides a fascinating base for discussion of similarities, differences and themes in this genre. If you like fairy tales, you will be intrigued by a study of this collection. Be forewarned that these stories are not for the feint-hearted reader. In general I would recommend for children ages ten and above or a reading of selections chosen by adults for younger children.